French interior minister Manuel Valls condemned “with the greatest force” attacks on two Paris synagogues Sunday by pro-Palestinian protesters who broke away from an otherwise peaceful demonstration.
Le Parisien reported six police officers who prevented the marchers from advancing were injured, as were two Jewish residents who also attempted to block the way, the paper said. The AP said the protesters attempted to fight their way into one of the buildings with bats and chairs.
Gary Assouline, a former reporter for Le Figaro who lives near one of the synagogues, live-tweeted the incident, saying that members of the rue de la Roquette congregation were forced to stay inside for more than an hour as the assault occurred. He linked to a video posted by another resident that showed the scene 20 meters away from the building.
There were conflicting reports on the actual number of individuals assaulting the synagogues. Sacha Reingewirtz, the president of the Union of Jewish Students of France, said there were more than 100, according to Le Parisien, while other reports suggested no more than a few dozen.
The mayor of Paris also condemned the attacks.
There were also unconfirmed reports that some slogans among the demonstrators went beyond mere support of Palestinians.
“We had multiple witnesses who told us they heard cries of ‘Death to Jews,'” Reingewirtz said according to Le Parisien. “I call on them to cease blaming Jews in France for the conflict, as they have nothing to do with it.” He added: “It is scandalous that these individuals would use the pretext of the conflict [in the Middle East] to attack Jews and call for the deaths of Jews.”
Meanwhile, a member of France’s Ecologist Party is facing reprisals for tweeting Saturday evening an apparent justification of attacking synagogues. “When synagogues start acting like embassies, one cannot be surprised to see them attacked in the same way,” Pierre Minnaert said. The head of the Ecologist Party swiftly rebuked him.
We’ve previously discussed the problems minorities of all kinds face in France, which is home to Western Europe’s largest populations of Jews and Muslims. A popular French comedian was recently sanctioned after incorporating a Nazi-like salute into his act. A recent Yahoo report also highlighted the increasing number of Jews leaving France for Israel. More than 20% of French said in a recent poll that they would not want “people of another race” as neighbours, among the highest in all of Europe.